Four fraudsters guilty of a ‘spectacular’ plot to stage a bus collision and con insurance firms out of half a million pounds are facing jail.
Insurance firm boss Mohammed Gulzar, aged 30, his employee Shoaib Nawaz, 24, and two other men - Javed Khan, 46, and Sami Selam, 36 - were convicted of conspiracy to defraud after a six-week Sheffield Crown Court trial.
Judge Graham Robinson revealed ringleader Gulzar had tried to avoid trial by pretending to be mentally ill.
In June 2011 Gulzar and Nawaz filled a First single decker with passengers before bus driver Adam Herbert - who was in on the plot - crashed deliberately into a Vauxhall at the junction of Scott Road and Ellesmere Road in Pitsmoor.
Katherine Robinson, prosecuting, said the bus normally carried six to eight passengers - but on the day of the crash 30 to 40 were aboard.
A total of 26 later made almost identical claims for whiplash through Gulzar’s company City Claims 4 U.
Miss Robinson said: “It’s described as ‘cash for crash’. It was a rather spectacular stunt.”
After the jurors’ unanimous guilty verdicts, Det Con Mark Wootton of South Yorkshire Police said: “This was a professionally-planned, highly-organised group who set out to defraud by making false claims and pocketing the money.
“The fraud involved false claims for injury, vehicle damage, recovery and storage costs, with extortionate and false claims for hire vehicles.”
One passenger later told police the accident was staged.
But it was just one of 10 stunted-up or exaggerated collisions staged by Gulzar, of Osgathorpe Road, and Nawaz, of Earl Marshal Road, Fir Vale. Others took place in Sheffield, Rotherham and Halifax in 2010 and 2011.
Gulzar initially fooled two psychiatrists into concluding he was unfit to stand trial.
But Judge Robinson said: “I found he was fit, and had deliberately sought to misrepresent his condition. I have no confidence whatsoever he will return to court for inevitable imprisonment. He will be remanded into custody pending sentence.”
Ben Fletcher of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, which investigated with police, said: “Scams like this expose the shocking lengths fraudsters go to.
“Crash for cash costs the industry £392m a year, but it is honest policyholders who have their pockets picked.
“Beyond the financial impact, it’s a dangerous crime.
“Stage-managing crashes is reckless. No-one can control that series of events and fraudsters are gambling with innocent people’s lives - particularly when a 12-tonne bus is involved.”
Dave Alexander from bus firm First added: “The consequences could have been much worse. Staging a collision was dangerous, callous and quite unbelievable.”
Bus driver Herbert, 25, of Ecclesfield Road, Chapeltown, Sheffield, along with Dusan Pacan, 27, of Cammell Road, Fir Vale; Safaida Bi, 30, of Bradford, Mohammed Jaffar, 25, and Saif Glenn, 26, both of Coventry, pleaded guilty before the trial. All will be sentenced at a later date.
Defendants Nisar Hussain, Liam Howden and Kiran Shaheen were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud.